Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree
Wondering when to put your Christmas tree up? Expert advice on when's best (plus how to look after it)
There are so many wonderful British traditions associated with the festive season, but it really wouldn’t be Christmas without a tree. You know, the sort that you stick proudly in the middle of your lounge and smother in tinsel, twinkly lights and glittery Santas. Yep—that kind of tree.
With each year that passes, they seem to be going up earlier and earlier. Traditionally, the Christmas tree went up on the 22nd of December and marked the start of the advent festivities. Wrapped presents were stashed under it and kept safe until the big day. But, fun fact: in recent years, the last weekend of November has become an increasingly popular date to put the Christmas tree up, although it, of course, varies from family to family.
Whether your family opts for real or artificial, or decks the tree with tinsel or baubles, one thing’s for sure. Christmas is coming. Keep reading for everything you need to know about caring for your tree and when to put it up, and learn a little Christmas history along the way, too.
A little history lesson for you: before the 19th century, Brits didn’t even put up a Christmas tree. Victorian history books reveal that Queen Victoria’s husband Prince Albert was the first to bring one to the UK. He did so around the 1840s, gifting a spruce-fir to his wife after a visit to Germany.
The trend soon caught on, with families up and down the UK uprooting firs and covering them in decorations such as candles, paper decorations and Christmas ornaments. Prior to that, families hung greenery such as ivy and holly around the house in celebration.
"Trees were originally a German tradition," says Hannah Fleming, curator at the Geffrye Museum. "Queen Victoria and Prince Albert were responsible for popularising it—see the illustration of the Queen, Prince Albert and their family decorating their own tree."
When should I put my Christmas tree up?
Well, traditionally, Christmas decorations wouldn’t be put up until the last possible moment. This trend continued into the Victorian times with the tree, too.
"As above, the tree would go up no earlier than the 22nd or 23rd December, and quite often on Christmas Eve," Hannah explains.
Why? Well, as doctor Martin Johnes, author of Christmas and the British: A Modern History (£17.31, amazon.co.uk) explains, putting your decorations up sooner, rather than later, was traditionally meant to bring bad luck.
Nowadays, traditions have shifted a little, with people buying their trees earlier and earlier. "Originally the Christmas tree was put up on Christmas Eve and left up until Twelfth Night but very few families follow this tradition now," explains Chris Craig, co-founder of Christmas at Home UK (@christmasathomeuk) and director and second generation grower at Stagsden Christmas Trees (stagsdenchristmastrees.co.uk). "For the 30 years we've been selling trees, the majority buy them roughly two weeks before Christmas. However, in the last couple of years, we’ve sold more trees at the end of November to coincide with the beginning of advent as people’s traditions change."
Why do we put our Christmas trees up earlier now?
Hannah thinks it might be to do with commercialisation. She says there isn’t a specific period when we started putting up Christmas trees earlier but it happened over time, although it is, she says, a 20th-century occurrence.
"This move earlier was partly due to commercial trends that saw more advertising of Christmas in November, but also due to the introduction of needle-retentive varieties of fir
tree from Scandinavia," explains Chris. That would make sense—if you can buy a tree earlier without all the needles dropping off come Christmas day, you’ll get to enjoy your decorations for longer.
Whatever your thoughts on when to put up your Christmas tree, rest assured, it varies from family to family and is simply personal preference. Put your tree up whenever makes you and your family happiest.
Are there any benefits to putting your tree up earlier?
"There are definitely benefits to putting up your Christmas tree early", shares interior influencer Ness Hancock (@creativedesignseeds). "Research has found that it can improve your mood, and a study in the Journal of Environmental Psychology concluded that those who decorate the outside of their house come across as more friendly."
This year has been immensely stressful for many, and so Ness explains that surrounding yourself with small things that bring you joy, like a Christmas tree and decorations, could really boost your mental health.
"With the year we’ve had, everyone could do with a bit of happiness. It’s (finally) something positive and joyful to look forward to. Christmas always provides a reason for celebration and a relaxing welcomed break, so it’s understandable that people are looking forward to and plan for it earlier than ever this year," she explains.
But what about putting your tree up super early—say the end of November? "Decorating your home early can create that neurological shift, a spike in the feel-good hormone dopamine which can produce happiness. If there was ever a year to make an exception to decorate early, this could be it. It’s a crazy year. If putting up your Christmas tree early will bring you a little extra joy, why not," she adds.
And Chris agrees, adding: "Christmas is about family, love, and togetherness. The tree is the physical symbol of these values and in a year of separation, having this reminder in our homes is worth a whole lot more."
What affect will COVID have on Christmas?
While we can’t speculate on how government restrictions may affect households mixing, we can tell you that, if the stats are anything to go by, the coronavirus pandemic has made people more determined than ever to make this Christmas a special time of reflection.
Owner of Christmas tree company Pines and Needles (pinesandneedles.com), Samuel Lyle, shares: "COVID may have cancelled lots of things but not Christmas. We are up 35% on Christmas tree sales from last year and online delivery slots are selling at an incredible rate. If these stats are anything to go by, people are more determined than ever to make this Christmas one to remember."
5 top tips for looking after your Christmas tree
Worried you’ll put your Christmas tree up too early and risk it wilting pre the big day? Here,
Samuel shares his top tips for making sure your tree stays in good shape. NB: real Christmas trees last for around five weeks if you follow the below steps and look after them correctly, so putting it up at the end of November shouldn’t be too risky.
"We still find that people aren’t aware of the care their tree needs," Samuel explains. "Cutting the bottom 3cms off your tree once you get it home is vital, as is watering it. Amazingly, trees need around three pints of water a day, especially if the central heating is on full blast."
1/ Let your tree relax
"Christmas trees are pretty hardy so they will happily sit in a bucket of water outside your door for two or three days before you bring it in," he explains. "In fact, we'd always recommend letting your tree have a relax outside before you bring it in, once you've snipped away the netting." Why? To let it settle. Neat.
2/ Water it—lots
Fun fact: your tree needs around two to three pints of water a day. "Your Christmas tree will need to drink more than you do this Christmas, so give it around two (to three) pints of water a day and it will be as happy as Larry."
Not sure how to water your tree? Place your tree in plain water - not soil or sand which would block the pores in the bark. A specially designed Christmas tree stand is best. Note here: it’s important to keep the water topped up, as once the water level drops below the tree’s trunk, sap will re-seal the bark within a few hours. This will prevent the tree from drinking any further water, even if you then re-fill the Christmas tree stand at a later date.
3/ Prepare the trunk
You’ll likely know this, but do you know how much to saw off? "Just before you install your tree, saw off the bottom 1" (3cm) of the trunk," shares Samuel. This creates a fresh cut and opens up the pores in the bark, which otherwise can block up with sap within a few hours of being cut. "The tree is then able to drink water through these pores via capillary action," he explains.
4/ Keep it away from any heat sources
Obvious, but essential. "Position your Christmas tree away from any heat sources such as radiators and fireplaces," Samuel instructs. Why? Well, because heat will dry out your tree faster. "The further from potentially damaging heat sources the better, the fresher your tree will remain."
5/ Stick to a routine, and be mindful of timing
Try not to expose your tree to sudden changes in temperature. "Trees, like most people, are creatures of habit and prefer steady conditions," explains Samuel. "Plus, it’s important to remember that trees are natural living things. Once they are cut, they begin to die. They’ll last for around five weeks. Make sure to time the arrival of your tree with this in mind so you can get the most out of it."
Celebrate with us!
With all this talk of Christmas trees, it's really getting us in Dallas, Oregon in the Christmas Spirit! Join us virtually on December 5th at 6pm to watch the Christmas Tree lighting live! Santa will be with us, reading a story and spreading his Christmas cheer! Simply click on www.facebook.com/exploredallasoregon to watch the fun!